Category Archives: Stephen Black

ARphabet Tour


January- April, 2019

the ARphabet tour

With the two topics of AR and Books, The ARphabet tour starts at ARIA at MIT, January 14 and 15, 2019.  AR-themed presentations are one part of the tour, the other part involves readings and writing workshops.

The ARphabet Tour is fun, serious and now taking bookings for the United States and Canada. After stops at SXSW in Austin, Texas and the Game Developers' Conference in San Francisco, The ARphabet Tour will wind down around the first of April.

Although I am planning an AR startup, the talk is about AR trends and developments. I am not using this tour as a way to directly seek investors or partners. I am interested in promoting AR as a whole.

Here is an example, from my workshops last summer, at HK  PolyU.

AR: 2018 State of the Art Workshop @ Hong Kong PolyU

AR Presentations

Presentation will be focused  to provide maximum relevant information to any of the following groups. No AR knowledge or experience necessary. Consultations should be scheduled separately.

  • General
  • Children
  • Grade School Students
  • High School Students
  • University Students
  • Advertising/Media
  • Food Industry
  • Medical
  • Artists, including Dancers and Sculptors
  • Filmmakers
  • Writers and Poets 
  • Investors

Unless requested otherwise, the presentations are not overly technical and consist of personal experiences and observations about the past, present and future of AR.

Introducing  Bubiko Foodtour, an AR character

Readings and Workshops

Son of a book salesman, author of fiction and non fiction, writer for TV, websites and magazines, Stephen is well experienced with the art of writing. One of his books, I  Ate Tiong Bahru, is a national bestseller in Singapore. The readings provide a behind-the scenes look at Stephen's writing techniques, inspirations ad challenges. Stephen's books and related videos and reviews can be found here.

Workshops, as much as possible, focus on ideas and text provided by students. After explaining his own writing process, write and share their own texts and ideas, which are evaluated individually and with the class as a whole. Workshops can be modified for any age group or level of writing experience. I have taught English in Japan,as well as creative writing/poetry performance  in Singapore. I also studied in an invite-only class with Robert McKee, the legendary teacher and author of Story, the definitive guide to screenwriting.

Publishing Magnates
Stephen Black , Book Merah CEO/author , with Stuart Rankin, Chairman of The Dundercats Multimedia Group.
360 films
Stephen Black in Beach Road, the 360VR film he co-produced with Hiverlab. The film has been featured in festivals in Las Vegas, Brisbane and Singapore.

About Stephen Black

After graduating with a BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Stephen Black experienced the growth of digital media from these viewpoints: as a photographer, as a video artist in New York's  Lower East Side and Japan; as a producer/writer/director for Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies in Hong Kong, and as a self-publisher of ebooks, books and photography books.

He was first drawn to the possibilities of spatial computing/AR/VR as the creative director for a $3.2 million game-making startup in Singapore. In 2007 he committed himself to writing books, while anticipating the arrival of AR and VR. And here we are...

Presentations and workshops by Stephen Black
A Chinese newspaper review of i ate tiong bahru. iatb is available as an audio book and a softcover, on Amazon. The first edition of the printed version is sold out.

HQB VIBE: NEW EYES (the first of a series of paintings created by Stephen Black)

HQB Vibe: Baby 2
HQB Vibe: Baby 2

The paintings are rectangular, the grey and white checks are part of the painting.

Lotus Mountain Notes

Lotus Mountain is about a robot and the man who broke her heart. The 360 VR short film written by Stephen Black and co-directed by Leo Wei and Stephen Black, is currently in postproduction.

Lotus Mountain features Alps Bethneck, who can be seen in the 360VR film Beach Road, as well as The Changi Murals, a short film directed by Boo Jun Feng.

The other stars of the film is the dynamic city of Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China.

Chinese city landmarks

Shenzhen Civic Center at night.

This page will be updated often in the next two weeks. The list of people we wish to thank is long, but for the moment, the producers would like to especially thank Stuart Rankin and the Dundercats/Six Cat Studios, Kandao 360 cameras, John Batten, Simon Carr, Ikram Choudhury, D Cafe, Angelo Costadimas/Bao Bao Films and the amazing teachers, administrators and students of the Multimedia & Entertainment Technology (MSc) Department of HK PolyU, especially Gino Yu, Dr. Ludovic Krundel and Giovanni Lion.

Last but definitely not least, Lotus Mountain features the talents of bassist/composer/teacher Rei Shimizu and Scobot, the VR artist whose World One VR artwork has been attracting attention worldwide.

scobot WORLD ONE SIFF2018 360 from scobot on Vimeo.

Rei Shimizu's bass playing featured here...

Lotus Mountain

Latest info about Lotus Mountain here.

Based on Leng Mo, a story from Alphabet Spikes by bestselling author Stephen Black.

LOTUS MOUNTAIN

a Weiblack Machine Production

A 360VR FILM

NOW IN PRODUCTION/POSTPRODUCTION

SET IN HONG KONG & CHINA’S SILICON VALLEY

REUNITED, FIVE YEARS AFTER HE BROKE HER HEART.

SHE’S A ROBOT. HE’S THE MAN WHO MADE HER.

Directed by LEO WEI and STEPHEN BLACK (Shenzhen Satellite TV, Beach Road, CNN, Fox, Cartoon Network, game development)

Featuring ALPS BETHNECK

Lead Actor: Changi Murals (director: Boo Jun Feng; his Apprentice film premiered@Cannes 2016)

Beach Road (VR festivals: Singapore, Brisbane & Las Vegas)

Original soundtrack by REI SHIMIZU

Japanese Bassist/Composer for CM/movies(toured HK with Sadato)

with Music by

3how

Since You’ve been Gone

The Riverwalk Session Album (featuring Amith Narayan(compoer/producer + music for a Tony-nominated play) and award winning vocalist Wilson Goh.)

Audio 360 sound mixing by Giovanni Lion

VR Art by SCOBOT (World One: Seattle International Film Festival 2018 Official Selection)

Producers: Leo Wei and Stephen Black

blacksteps.tv@gmail.com

www.blacksteps.tv

Alphabet Spikes Z-T (notes from June 2018, Hong Kong)

One of the books free/discounted, as part of the HK Book Fair.

Alphabet Spikes is a collection of stories, essays and experiments created from February 2017 until now--and in the future! The core of the book is here, on Amazon, but this ebook actually something like crowdfunding.

Once you buy the book, send me your email and you will get an updated ebook with new stories, as I add them. Right now, the version on Amazon includes stories about a game developer, Antigone Cloud and my brief encounter with Anthony Bourdain. Next will be journal entries from the Bubiko Orwell Tour, which voyaged through Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong. The purpose of the tour was to research food, to create a network of people interested in AR, and two work on two books.

Besides the tour journal, there are, and will be, short stories, interviews and essays about Southeast Asia and people, events and places connected to it.

Alphabet Spikes: Art and entrepreneurship go on a road trip in Southeast Asia. Lots of eating, a few meetings, and nonstop ups and downs.

In reverse alphabetical order, the following are some of my experiences in Hong Kong; these will become stories and essays. Questions? Leave in the comments section, as well as any info you'd like to share. Thanks!

Zorn. Click to hear the HK/Macau/CBGB story.

Yam cha and dim sum

Yam cha! The literal translation is "drink tea". However, yum cha usually means eating a meal of dim sum. Dim sum are the foods served in the round bamboo containers. Dim sum restaurants are everywhere in Hong Kong.

Xu Xi at the launch of Insignificance

“An audacious, inventive and original collection: these ‘Hong Kong’ stories are full of clever energy and lively strangeness.” - Gail Jones On Amazon.

Walsh, Joe. Performing with Shear, Jules and John, Doctor.

VR HMD ad on a tram.

Uniworks, the display of students' work, near the entrance of the Jockey Club Innovation Tower on the Hong Kong Polytechnic campus.

Inside the Dome

Tony Tan, Delta Blues Audio

Tai Kwun Art Complex, just down the road from where I used to live.

Alphabet Spikes: Q-S is here.

another book by Book Merah

AR reference materials for Hong Polytechnic Presentations and Workshops

MUCH MORE INFO ABOUT THE MATERIALS PRESENTED IS HERE.

Interesting things I found while doing research for my workshops and presentations on June 11 and 13.

Eventbrite registration is here

I will be giving ebooks away during this time, as well as discounting them. Info here.

.

AR and ART! An article by Grace Ko/Jumpstart magazine.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/movies/snapchat-3d-bitmoji-animation-augmented-reality.html

U2 Snapchat type Mephisto

Video: The Augmented Reality Market Opportunity - Panel at AWE 2016

https://arilyn.com/cases/ Highly recommended!

http://3dbear.io/

https://www.slideshare.net/WeAreCramer/augmented-reality-for-brand-experiences-during-augmented-reality-in-action-aria-2018-at-the-mit-media-lab

I would like to thank Michael Konin Kato for the following four pieces of AR/VR info:

http://qoncept.co.jp/

https://www.designboom.com/design/teamlab-dmm-digital-office-tokyo-05-16-2017/

https://vrzone-pic.com/en/

https://www.tokyoweekender.com/2018/02/we-cant-wait-to-see-teamlabs-new-digital-museum/

I have benefited from The Ghost Howls for over a year. Inspiring, informative and funny! I want to be The Ghost Howls when I grow up!

Here is an informative podcast:Ken Devellis on How to Create AR Apps.

walkin_demo_LP from Living Popups on Vimeo.

AWE

Charlie Fink's Metaverse - An AR Enabled Guide to AR & VR

https://www.swedenvirtualreality.com/

Cupping Steve’s Wild Coffee (part 2)

part 1 is here..

Boss: "Fruit. Westerners eat different fruit than Thai people. So when a coffee description in English mentions the name of a fruit, it doesn't always immediately register."

This is the second statement Boss said after he took his first sip of medium roasted SWC. "Apricot" was the first.

female barista

Neung, from Once Cafe in Chiang Rai, cupping Steve's Wild Coffee.

Then, with Neung, we began a discussion on the many variables related to describing the taste of coffee. The individual's sensitivity, cultural background and coffee-tasting experience for example. How do different machines affect the taste? The water? The weather? The soil, weather and growing conditions are constantly changing; how does a plant respond? It was only after Boss mentioned the word "apricot' that I became aware of the trace of tangy sweetness that he was referring to. And, after some thought, I think a young chiku fruit, not yet sweet, would be a solid comparison.
Coffee beans on a plate

Beans on a plate on a blue and white patterned cloth.

The bottom line for the SWC Medium roasted, for this cupping, is that the texture is smooth and there is a slightly tannin taste as well as a hint of apricot. It is a flavorful drink by itself. Adding milk would likely mask this coffee's subtleties. We discovered peaberry beans among the flatbeans and this was a nice surprise! Peaberry, especially from northern Thailand is recognized as a quality bean.

The SWC dark roast was very similar to the medium roast, but with an additional taste resulting from a longer roasting time. The taste sensation, like so many, is difficult to describe."Burnt" strikes me as being too strong of a word. The flavor is not really "smoky", either. Well-roasted is a phrase that could be used, but it does not contain any specific description of taste. The beans look like smooth glossy stones, and this is because the roasting process brought some of the oil to the surface. An excellent post about roasting is here, on The National Coffee Association USA website.

The last version of SWC we cupped was a mix of 80% dark with 20 percent of an extended roast. The beans were dark and oily, as more oil was brought out because of the longer roasting time.

It tasted energetic to me, a little bit "burnt", a little bit fruity, a smooth but "buzzy taste"; energetic. This latte was made from the 80/20 blend and it was pretty gosh darn good.

Latte Art

Created by Neung, at Once Cafe, Chiang Rai

I will need sometime to think about the short description for SWC. Having no experience, I can't really judge things like Dry Fragrance, Wet Aroma,Flavor, Finish, Acidity, and Body.Let alone the procedures scoring methods found here. SWC is wild, and I am still researching exactly what that means. Overgrown estate? Birds or animals ate the coffee cherries from the government-affiliated plantations and then deposited the seeds throughout the hillsides? The "wild" part of this experience is what interests me. I briefly worked on a permaculture farm, and it seemed that the intent was to simulate an "uncivilized" growing environment, ie the wild". The main reasons for growing in the permaculture style are taste and environmental respect. Now, I do not have the time to see for myself what wild means in terms of SWC, meaning I cannot go to the growing areas.

I will just have to make another cup and sit and write a description.

A photograph of a photograph

A photograph of a Pa O woman in the Coffee Traveler magazine displayed on the counter

Cupping Steve’s Wild Coffee (part 1)

Later, I will talk about my experiences using coffee in my visual art projects and writing. For example, one of my books contains a chapter about coffee. For now, I will simply say that creating my own brand of coffee would combine several longtime interests, including, ultimately, AR. (Presentations about AR at HK Poly. A post about AR and Coffee)

This post is about my first cupping experience, which occurred on May 12, 2018, at Once Cafe in Chiang Rai, Thailand. I had discovered Once the day before the testing, by accident.Lucky! The barista was Neung (Matorose Plengsai).

Coffee cupping preparation

Neung (Matorose Plengsai).from Once Cafe in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

She is deeply connected with coffee. Her husband is involved with the production of organic foods, including coffee: at one point he made his own roaster. Neung supervised the creation of Once Coffee, the signature of her cafe. In the course of discussing Once Coffee, it was agreed that I could bring some to Hong Kong, for a tasting event I am planning.

Here is my description of Once Coffee:

Made from Peaberry beans, Once is light-hearted and slightly fruity, yet powerful-- an excellent choice for lattes and cappuccinos. Organically grown, processed and roasted on a single estate in northern Thailand, Once is a blend of roasts: medium and dark. The blend is constantly monitored and adjusted to maintain Once’s signature flavor.

Once treats the people it is involved with fairly.

Let the cupping begin!

Once was cupped in the afternoon. The cupping for Steve’s Wild Coffee (the name for now, anyway) started at 8:30 AM. Besides Neung, we were fortunate to have Boss (Pattapong Valuvanarak), who manages a restaurant called Kafe Journal.

thoughtful coffee drinker

Boss!

We had three types of Steve’s Wild Coffee (SWC). The beans are Arabica: a medium roast, a dark roast and a mix of 80% medium and 20% dark.

Like most coffees, the dark roast and the 80/20 mixture will work well with lattes and cappuccinos. No surprises there. The medium roast was judged to be very suitable for simple, hot coffees. Again, no surprises.

What follows are notes on what I learned, observed and thought about. I am a fresh arrival into this part of the coffee world. Also, the wild coffee is almost completely undocumented. So, we were in the rare position of being able to respond to what we were tasting with very few preconceived ideas.

I should state that wild coffee is a new venture by a company with over forty years experience producing high grade organic teas. It is not a secret who they are, and I will later identify them, especially on all packaging. They are now applying for a USDA organic certificate.

Cofffe packaging

Once Cafe, in Chiang Rai, Thailand. The first cupping of Steve's Wild Coffee.

So... the cupping!

Neung opened the medium roast, and Boss spread some beans out on a plate. He picked something up, showed it to Neung and they laughed. “Elephant ears”, he said. Elephant ears are shells of beans that are empty. I looked, and yes, the shell of an empty coffee bean looks just like the ears of an elephant. Boss showed me another bean that had a tiny hole in it. “An insect ate some.” I made a mental note to find out why this was bad. Psychologically, perhaps it is not good, but in terms of the coffee making process, why is it bad? There was no insect, of course. I wonder if, by eating the coffee bean, the insect allowed air into the heart of the fruit. This would mean oxygen being added into the fruit’s “manufacturing process”. Perhaps this is the reason for the rejection. The coffee is roasted, which kills bacteria and other micro-organisms. Simply, I must learn more about insects eating coffee beans. Is it a cosmetic issue, or something more?

No fungus was detected and the other beans which were rejected were chipped, a common fault. But again I wonder if this is cosmetic or something more serious. Could it be that the chipping results in the bean drying out in that area and losing flavor?

(PART 2 is here)

An Instagram post of the cupping.

Coffee and AR: Prepare for impact!

This is a draft. A different, final version of this story will appear in Coffee Traveler magazine later this year. If you know of any examples of AR being used in the coffee industry, do let me know!

Coffee and AR: Prepare for Impact!

Augmented Reality will soon be everywhere. How can the coffee industry prepare itself for this revolutionary new technology?

2017 can be considered the start of Augmented Reality. Six hundred million iPhones became enabled for AR. One hundred million Android users also gained AR functionality. Facebook, Microsoft, Intel and other companies released or improved AR products. Time magazine, in an issue guest-edited by Bill Gates, used AR on its cover. There is no doubt that AR will become a very, very big thing, as common as GPS.

But what is AR, Augmented Reality? And, in what ways will AR impact the coffee industry?

AR is a technology that combines digital data with the physical world. The digital data can be sound, text, graphics, video or 3D models (like what you see in many computer games.) The ”physical world” can be as large as the Sydney Opera House or as small as a matchbox: books, table tops, living rooms and parks-- anywhere! At present, AR can be experienced with phones and tablets, though special glasses, like Microsoft’s Hololens or Google Glass may become common. AR is used for industrial, educational, medical, entertainment,research and other purposes.

The first huge AR success was Pokemon GO, which hides digital creatures in real world locations. With Ikea’s AR app, customers can put digital furniture in their real homes, allowing them to select the best color and size. Coca Cola and Boeing, like many companies, use AR to aid in the repair and maintenance of machinery.

An Australian wine company called 19 Crimes created an app that allows the photographs on their labels to move, speak and tell stories. According to Forbes magazine, this AR app resulted in over one million cases of wine being sold, and an increase of volume sales by 60%.

AR is nearly unlimited; it can play audio, interact with users, function like GPS, display graphics, photos, videos and more. AR gamers fight flying spaceship battles in their bedrooms. In restaurants, menu applications by KabaQ display AR models of food.

Starbucks, whose first AR project was launched in 2011, recently created a “coffee wonderland” in Shanghai. Called the Roastery, it features a number of AR experiences. Its centerpiece is a huge copper vessel covered with almost three thousand hand carved Chinese seals that tell the story of Starbucks. Using AR, visitors can “look inside” the huge structure, and see the beans being poured in, roasted, and then finally transported through copper pipes to the coffee bars.

Because they have come to the Roastery specifically to experience,and learn about coffee, visitors are likely to download the digital tour guide. There is also a QR code version. When planning to make an AR app, the first issue is: download or not? The second being the Apple/Android issue.

An augmented reality app is used in the new Starbucks Roastery in Shanghai, China. Photographed on Friday, December 1, 2017. (Joshua Trujillo, Starbucks)[/caption]

It is a wonderful idea to create a customized AR app, what is called a “native” app. However, potential users may be discouraged by file size and download time. A native app may not be the best choice at trade shows or public spaces without high speed wifi. Fortunately, not all AR requires a native app. And, there is WebAR, which works on both Apple and Android and does not requirea download, only a link.

The Roastery chose AR because it was the best solution-- not because AR is trendy. Perhaps they could have used video monitors- but how many? And where to position them? Plus, visitors would not be able to pause, replay or start the presentation.

photo by Eva Yoo. Used with permission

Location: companies with big budgets can create AR experiences for large spaces. Snapchat put giant AR sculptures by Jeff Koons in front of the Eiffel Tower and in Central Park. Waterloo Station was the site of an AR game created by Cadbury, and AR rhinos roamed in the Rotterdam train station, thanks to National Geographic.

Augmented Reality is now used in homes, factories, airplanes, and living rooms. It is becoming a new medium, like radio or television. AR is becoming an artform and, in advertising, AR is connecting producers and consumers in new ways. It will be interesting to watch the seeds of AR grow in the world of coffee.

Stephen Black is an artist, writer and producer. He is now completing a novel about an archild, an AR software that looks like a ten-year old girl. His startup aims to be the Pixar of AR. Look out for Bubiko Foodtour! www.blacksteps.tv

A very special thanks to Antony Vitillo for technical proofreading and great ideas galore. Antony’s blog is called The Ghost Howls (http://skarredghost.com). He is a consultant at New Technology Walkers (http://ntwalkers.it/en)

Photo of phone/Chinese seals: courtesy of Starbucks

Photos of screenshots: Eva Yoo

Writing and the Digital Avante-garde

The slides are explained here.

TEST READERS WANTED: If you would like to be one of the first to read about ANTIGONE CLOUD, email Stephen Black at bubikofoodtour@gmail.com

Antigone Cloud is a ten-year old girl who is actually an arbot, a softwre program made of light. Antigone, who lives in Singapore, has the body of a ghost and the mind of an emotional computer.